How to Future-Proof Your Client’s Estate Plan

future-clock-1400756-mThe times, they are a-changin’.  Bob Dylan’s famous lyrics echo down from the 60s as a wake-up call for estate and financial planners today. How are the times changing, and what should planners do about it?

In an article from Trusts & Estates, Karen Ciegler Hansen asserts “it’s time to get down into the trenches to find out what’s really happening in our clients’ lives.” It’s not just about tax planning and wealth protection anymore.

What has changed?

The author cites several studies published by Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends. The titles of reports on the Pew website alone tell the story:

  • “Breadwinner Moms”
  • “A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in Their Parents’ Home”
  • “Millennials: Only a Third Head Their Own Households”
  • “The Rise of Single Fathers”
  • “Marriage Rates Decline and Marriage Age Rises”
  • “More Americans Worry About Financing Retirement”

Ever watched the TV Show “Modern Family?” If so, you’ve seen a range of possibilities for what may constitute family life. The definition of family has morphed, and trends like these on the rise:


  • Over 50% of U.S. households are now headed by a single individual
  • Non-traditional partnerships are increasing in number: 16.1% of US households are now multi-generational
  • 16.1% of U.S. households are multi-generational

The Sandwich Generation

  • 48% of middle-aged adults provided financial support to a child over 18 in 2012
  • 21% of middle-aged adults provided financial support to a parent over 65 in 2012
  • A whopping 78% of middle-aged adults believe they’ll be responsible for caring for an aging family member

Special Needs

  • The number of people who have a special needs diagnosis, either physical, mental or both, continues to grow
  • 19.8% of adults are treated annually for mental illness
  • 4.6% of adults are diagnosed as having a serious mental illness

Financial Insecurity

  • The amount Baby Boomers have saved for retirement is insufficient
  • There are questions about how much our government will be able to provide in the future

Source: “The Modern Family,” Trusts & Estates

The author stresses the need for “flexibility to keep pace with unforeseen future changes” and “provisions to expand or change the class of beneficiaries or the purposes for distribution.”

Have you addressed changes like these that may impact your clients’ estate plans?

–      A son loses everything due to alcoholism, moves in with his elderly mother to ‘take care of her,’ but can’t even take care of himself.

–      A daughter gives up her high-paying job to take care of Dad and now that he’s gone, she can’t easily return to the workforce.

–      A daughter is diagnosed with mental illness, has addiction problems and can’t hold a job.

What are your clients’ stories? Do you fully understand their life circumstances? Are you asking the right questions to ensure that estate and financial plans can stand the test of time?

Change is the only constant in life, said the Greek philosopher Heraclitis. How are you helping your clients navigate the new landscape?





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